Lately I’ve been writing about the relative virtues of basic income and child allowance proposals to counteract poverty and inequality. These seem like novel ideas on the American scene today. But in fact, there was a time when both of these ideas were seriously proposed on Capitol Hill. After forty-five years of lost faith in government, we are simply rediscovering the ambitions we once held.
In August 1969, President Richard Nixon unveiled a basic income scheme for needy families with children called the “Family Assistance Plan.” (FAP) Under Nixon’s FAP, a family of four would receive $1,600 annually from the federal government, or about $10,500 in 2016 dollars. For families deriving income from work, the FAP would gradually phase out above a certain level. Indeed, FAP included a work requirement for most “employable” individuals.
Unions win admission to Columbia. The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that graduate students and teaching assistants have the right to unionize at private universities (The New York Times). The Columbia grad students who won the case say it’s less about wages than issues of power and independence and their ability to protect themselves in the “corporatized, hierarchical” world that their university has become. The university says the grad students should be viewed primarily as students; the NLRB disagreed, ruling that if they get paid and supervised like other employees, then, like other employees, they should be able to join a union, too. The students join employees of some digital media outfits in the “unions aren’t as dead as you thought” parade. The NLRB’s move is a sharp reminder to companies and institutions of all stripes: share power and decision-making with stakeholders, or don’t be surprised when they organize. Related: If graduate assistants are employees, why aren’t college athletes? (Pacific Standard)
EpiPen train wreck shows how broken healthcare pricing is. EpiPens are easy-to-use quick-injection devices that save the lives of children and other people who are prone to sudden allergic reactions that block their breathing. The medicine in them — epinephrine — costs about $1. But one company, Mylan, has a monopoly, and it has aggressively marketed EpiPens (Gizmodo) while raising their price roughly six-fold in the past few years (Forbes). An EpiPen two-pack (the only kind available) now costs about $600. People need to keep lots of them around, and they expire every year. So, just another pharma price-gouging tale, right? Here’s the twist: Mylan gives patients discount coupons that cover their copayments, so in theory the customer shouldn’t care about the price— only insurance companies are on the hook. But we’ve spent the last decade pushing people into high-deductible insurance plans,on the theory that, if patients have some skin in the cost game, they will help introduce market discipline. That’s exactly what’s happening: Those sticker-shocked insurees are either raising a stink or forgoing the purchase entirely. Congress is up in arms, too, which surely isn’t what Mylan wanted. (Its CEO is the child of a West Virginia senator.) Moral: A company that views the health marketplace as an arena for maximum profit extraction and puts lives at risk will end up a pariah.
Today’s Top Stories — What Amsterdam Knows About Making a City Smart: Data data data. — Y Combinator Steps Toward Basic Income Study: It starts with a pilot in Oakland. — Social Media Leaders Reach Agreement With European Regulators: Facebook, Google, and others vow to combat hate speech. — An Open Office That Works for Introverts: Susan Cain has advice. — Consultants Are Helping Corporate America Slack: It’s like teaching your older relatives to use Snapchat. — Do You Want To Complain to Airbnb About Your Neighbors?
Data Makes Amsterdam Smart MIT Sloan Management Review looked at Amsterdam’s Smart City initiative and took away six lessons, many of which revolved around how the city uses data. GPS data from an Amsterdam-based navigation software and technology provider helps manage traffic flow in real time. Recent data also lets planners do their planning based on recent changes: for example, the city has 25% fewer cars and 100% more scooters than it did in 2011. And, of course, the review suggests that a city needs a CTO to tie it all together. The study rewards a deep dive and there’s a reference to the TV show Get Smart if you read until the end, but the TL;DR is clear: If you’re not capturing and acting on data, you are going to have one dumb city to manage.